Lights! Camera! Action!
Oct 11, 2017 03:13PM ● Published by Emily Stevenson
By John Jeter
EXT. A MULTI-BUILDING MOVIE STUDIO – DAY.
Just off I-85 in Greenville, S.C.
So begins the script for what a Charlotte movie producer and Greenville businesswoman hope will grow into a multimedia complex for everything from gaming and virtual-reality programming to episodic television series and films.
“We’re open for business now,” says Bert Hesse, CEO of Studio South, “It’s not, ‘If they build it and they will come,’ it’s already built, we just have to sell it.”
Hesse is referring to 28 Global Drive, where his studio-management firm is building Global Media Park on a 73-acre site belonging to Vivian Wong, a Greenville entrepreneur, real estate developer, and global-trade maven.
Studio South is developing as many as eight sound stages in spaces ranging from 300,000 square feet to a 5,000-square-foot office, Hesse says.
“It’s perfect for episodic productions,” he says, citing the explosive growth of original series from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. “We couldn’t handle Iron Man 4, but, on the other hand, the state couldn’t attract Iron Man 4 because they don’t have the incentives in place to attract what we call a tent-pole film.”
Big-time filmmakers rely on such state incentives, while at the same time pumping huge sums back into on-location economies; Georgia generates $7 billion in economic impact, dwarfing South Carolina’s $74 million.
Wong hopes to change that.
“I feel like we can get some of this business from Georgia and make people aware of South Carolina,” she says. “And I just really wanted to help out.”
She has owned the sprawling property since 2005, a site Hesse says Digital Equipment Corp. built in the 1980s for $65 million; Studio South, started four years ago, is investing $50 million, Hesse says.
The two met last year at a film advisory committee meeting while Hesse was working on a similar deal in Charlotte. That project fell apart because of financing and infrastructure issues—not a problem here, he says.
“We were going to have to put in infrastructure—roads, sewer, electricity. There’s a reason they call it Rock Hill—it’s got rocks and hills,” says Hesse, who was also a founder of the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
IMBD, the internet movie database, shows Hesse, a 20-year film-industry veteran, with executive-producer credits on three films, including 2009’s thriller, Cold Storage. Currently, he’s producing a documentary about The Ventures rock band with Bo Bice, runner-up to Carrie Underwood in American Idol’s fourth season.
Wong, meantime, hopes the complex will generate “wholesome movies, like Hallmark. I am very picky about choosing the right tenant. I feel like I’m finding a theme for this entire park, and I feel like I can help out and help the community.”